Omikuji is one of Japan’s good luck charms. In fact, it has a lot to do with fortune-telling. Do you believe in fortunes and predictions? Well, Japanese people do.
With the many temples and shrines they have, these people hold on to their sacred tradition of worship. Contrary to what many would think, these temples and shrines are pretty much open to foreigners too.
So as a traveler, you may have heard about the Omikuji, and you want to know more. This article will tell you everything you need to know about Omikuji in Japan.
What is the Omikuji
If you have visited any Japanese temple or shrine during your trip, you may have noticed some strips of paper-wooden plaques. Those paper strips are known as Omikuji. Omikuji is a fortune-telling paper strip or a sacred lot.
Technically, the paper strips contain written content that is more like random fortunes of people. Make no mistake, fortune-telling is sacred to the Japanese.
If a person wants to draw an Omikuji, they first make a small offering; (about 100) before picking a paper strip randomly from the box. Or they could select a random number and collect their fortune strip according to the number.
These fortunes are in different varieties. Like health, love, employment, desire, travel, business, and study. If you draw an Omikuji, it could predict your chance at a good relationship, or a good business. It is usually a random pick and most fortune slips come with a piece of advice from Miko.
It is quite a common belief and practice in Japan. Presently, both foreigners and Japanese locals visit their Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines to draw the Omikuji. Some people identify the Omikuji with a lottery.
It is not out of place to get an Omikuji in Japan. Sometimes, it feels like a lottery. You should know that the fortune on the strip can range from a great blessing to a great curse. Scared? Don’t be. It is not as horrific as it sounds. There are ways to cancel bad fortunes in Japan.
History and Emergence of the Omikuji
Omikuji in Japan did not begin today. This culture has been in Japan for centuries. Fortune telling dates back to 912. Then, the Buddhist priest Hiei Ryogen used supernatural powers to predict the future of leaders in Japan.
Then, the Buddhist priest used this fortune-telling power to choose the next ruler or government successors. Practicing omikuji in ancient Japan meant drawing lots to foretell the god’s will in choosing a successor.
The event where the priest picks the next government in the country is usually a festival. In fact, the festival hypothetically speaking originated from a god lot. What’s more, there is a stone monument at Mt. Hiei that depicts “the birthplace of Omikuji.”
The emergence of Omikuji can be attributed to the Muromachi period. Then, these omikuji were created based on collections of Chinese poems.
In modern-day Japan, however, Omikuji is done differently. This time individuals pick their fortune. Literally, taking their future into their own hands, they are foretold of either good or bad luck.
While some go to the temple and shake some boxes, others use a vending machine to get their Omikuji. This kind of omikuji trend began as early as 2011.
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What Omikuji means to the Japanese
Omikuji is more than just a fun festival for the Japanese. It is a sacred ritual. Though they do not use the Omikuji every day, they do so at the beginning of a new year. It is part of their tradition; they believe what it says.
So as much as a Japanese would love to purchase a Daruma doll, he would most definitely draw an Omikuji fortune telling slip. Omikuji is a sacred lot that helps chase ill luck. And Japanese folks engage in this event during their New Year festival.
Kinds of Omikuji, symbols and their meaning
The following are the kinds of Omikuji and their English translations.
Dai-Kichi – great fortune (good luck)
Chu-Kichi – middle fortune
Sho-Kichi – a small fortune
Kichi – fortune
Han Kichi – half fortune
Sue Kichi – future fortune
Sue shou Kichi – future, a small fortune
Kyo – bad fortune
Han-Kyo – half bad fortune
Sue-kyo – future bad fortune
Dai-Kyo – great bad fortune
How to draw an Omikuji fortune slip
There are simple steps to take when you want to draw your omikuji fortune slip. They’re easy if you pay close attention.
First things first;
When you get to the shrine or temple, cleanse yourself at the pavilion (temizuya). You can do this by filling the ladler with water. Then pour some of it over your left hands, followed by your right hand.
When you finish, proceed to your mouth. Cup some water with your left hand to rinse your mouth. Return the ladler when you are through. Proceed to pay your respect to the deity.
In the past, before a person picks his omikuji from the shrine, he gives a token offering before choosing randomly from the box. This offering was within 5 yen coin since five was considered a number for good luck.
These days, priests at the shrine require more than that. In fact, in some shrines and temples, 100 yen is the offering price for your fortune slip. It is advisable to have between 100 and 300 yen when you visit the shrine.
When you are through with payment, move to either shaking the boxes or waiting for your vending machines to decide your fate.
- Shake the box
When you have successfully paid, you can now move on to shake the box. You have to shake the box properly before drawing out the paper slip.
In the past, when it was time to shake the box, the individual would shake carefully until a small bamboo stick fell out. The bamboo stick comes with a number on it. The Omikoju will be given to you by the priest.
Presently, you may not need to go through that hassle of shaking out a stick from the box if you don’t want to. You could pay into a vending machine before receiving your Omikuji.
- Draw your omikuji
Depending on the shrine, you could pick a stick from the box. And use the number placed on it to unlock the drawer to your fortune slip. Or you could draw it directly from inside the box. You can also use a vending machine to achieve this.
When you have successfully collected your omikuji, make sure you return the numbering stick to the box.
- Read your omikuji
This part is as crucial as the others. Reading your omikuji will determine if you want this fortune or not. When people pick a bad fortune slip, they perform another ritual that keeps the bad luck away from the bearer. And when it is good, they keep it.
Most omikuji at Japanese shrines do not have English translations. So to help you read this, you can check out the kinds of omikuji. Also, we have listed a few temples in Japan that have English translations of the omikuji fortune slip. You can also see what to do when you draw a bad fortune.
When is the best time to draw a fortune slip?
Honestly, there is no specific time to draw an Omikuji. You could do that at any time. But it would make much more sense if you followed Japanese people during the New Year’s Day festival so you can experience their culture.
What does it mean to draw a bad fortune?
Because these fortune slips are selected randomly, you can’t tell if your omikuji would be a blessing or a curse. When you draw a bad fortune, it means you are likely to experience something terrible.
What to do after you draw an Omikuji gone wrong
After reading your fortune slip, check the instructions. If the written content shows terrible fortune, you can proceed to do what other Japanese folks have been doing; break the curse. If you look around the shrine or temple, you will notice a pine tree fortune slip. Tie your omikuji to the tree branch as others are doing. This way, the bad fortune stays at the shrine and won’t follow you.
If you’re wondering if you can try again, the answer is yes. Fortune can change over time. But I’d advise you to wait a few days before doing so.
Shrines or Temples to find omikuji with English translations
- Tokyo – Sensoji temple
- Kamakura – Tsurugaoka hachimangu shrine
- Kyoto – Nishiki tenmangu shrine
- Chiba prefecture – Naritasan
Now that you understand Omikuji, you can explore Japanese culture and try out their fortune-telling the next time you visit Japan. Who knows, you might be in luck for a great fortune. If you don’t believe in fortune-telling, you can also do it for the fun of it. Japanese culture is quite interesting to experience.